June 26, 2012 01:00 PM

Jordan Strauss/WireImage

Growing up, Kate Hudson had the perfect playmate to test makeup on: her brother. “My poor brother,” she recalls to PEOPLE. “He was kind enough to be my mannequin, and let me experiment on his face. I’d put blue eye shadow on him and we’d laugh.”

But much of Hudson’s makeup experience came from a more professional setting — namely, mom Goldie Hawn’s movie sets. “I remember my mom’s makeup artist, this wonderful, old-time sort of legend in the movie industry, Tom Case, who had one little box he’d carry with him,” she recalls. “He’d pull out just four items, and make the most incredible face with those four things.”

Hudson would play with Case’s products — “He said, ‘You can go in there as much as you want, but you have to put everything back exactly where you found it,'” she recalls — and a love of makeup was born.

Now, the actress (and face of Almay cosmetics) often does her own makeup for premieres and events — and even helps out her pals. “I love putting makeup on friends,” she shares. “I do it all the time. If I’m bringing them to a premiere, or we’re having a party, they’ll all come over early and I’ll do their makeup. I love it.”

Describing herself “as a girly girl at times, with a bit of tomboy in me,” Hudson says she looks to magazines like Japanese and French Vogue for inspiration. “I love that side of makeup: crazy, almost Gaga-ish looks,” she says. “But on a daily basis I’m as quick and natural as possible.”

That means three basics: lip gloss, mascara and “a foundation that I can just put on like lotion,” she shares. In her purse? “Almay eye liner, any lip gloss — I’m a bit obsessed — and mascara,” she reveals. “I find that sometimes if you feel like you’re looking a little tired, an extra coat can be good. It’s almost more important to me than bringing powder.”

When it’s time for a night out, Hudson opts to play up her eyes. “If I had the Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson lips, I’d probably have a lot more fun with lips,” she says. “But I concentrate more on my eyes. But it depends on every face — and that’s what’s so fun about being a girl.” Tell us: How do you play with makeup?

–Kate Hogan


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